Brenton Smith: Each hotel has to have its own DNA. I think there has been a generational shift - travellers are much more interested in authenticity.
Neil Maxwell: We try to give our hotels personality, and to be aspirational and think about what a hotel can be. We work closely with designers to look at the space, the heritage and the context before we bring in the operator. Operators can give a lot of input, as they are seeing what works and new ideas across the world, but each hotel has to have its own sense of identity.
I like to think our hotels have soul. If you are staying in Melbourne you need to know you are in Melbourne through the feel of the hotel, and the same with Brussels, Amsterdam and so forth. Something has to speak of Amsterdam, it’s not just about the brand. You can go to some hotels and forget where you are in the world.
BS: As a guest, if your room really does everything you want it to do, then the room size is not that important.
NM: It comes down to a clever room design, incorporating practical elements like a great bed and shower and fast WiFi.
We do tend to spend money on our hotels more frequently than our peers. We need to do this to remain relevant. Changing a carpet is not a refurbishment, it’s product maintenance. We keep a dynamic in our portfolio by measuring a hotel’s relevance to its locality. We want to give people a reason to keep coming back. Sometimes that means changing the brand and repositioning.
The hotel choice out there is exponential, so it’s all about planning, planning, planning and execution. We put a lot of time into this—it has to be seamless.
Food and beverage spaces are often key. We are firm believers in independent operators to allow a bar to flourish, have its own personality and to broaden the audience. Initially we built up the Zephyr Bar in the Hyatt Regency as a standalone to the hotel brand. It’s positioned high up on the skyline. We made sure we designed it from the barman’s point of view and what we wanted to see in the bar for the customer, not the operator. It’s been highly successful for the past few years and a really great example of our approach.
BS: We don’t believe in highly segmented profiling of what each type of traveller would want.
NM: None of us know our guests that well. I think sometimes, in an attempt to understand everything that a customer wants, the point of what they need can be missed. This can actually be quite simple but it has to been done really well. Your customers will tell you immediately through social media if your offering is wrong.